Andy Warhol's famed Marilyn Monroe portrait sells for record $271m at auction

The painting of Marilyn Monroe sold for a hammer price of US$170 million.
PHOTO: Reuters

NEW YORK - Pop artist Andy Warhol's famed 1964 silk-screen portrait of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe sold for US$195 million (S$271 million) at auction on Monday (May 9), a record for a work by an American artist sold at auction.

Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is one in a series of portraits Warhol made of the actress following her death in 1962 and has since become one of pop art's best-known pieces.

Held in the collection of Swiss art dealers Thomas and Doris Ammann, it was sold by Christie's at an auction in New York.

Pre-sale estimates had reached as high as US$200 million.

The painting sold for a hammer price of US$170 million. Added fees gave it a final price of US$195 million.

The sale broke the previous record for an American artwork at auction of US$110.5 million set in 2017 for a 1982 painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

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"Shot Sage Blue Marilyn is the absolute pinnacle of American Pop," Mr Alex Rotter, chairman of 20th and 21st Century art at Christie's, said in a statement announcing the auction.

"The painting transcends the genre of portraiture, superseding 20th century art and culture."

The painting is built on a promotional photo of Monroe from the 1953 film Niagara, screened with bright colours over her eyes, hair and lips.

Its title refers to an incident in which a woman shot at a stack of four Marilyn portraits in Warhol's studio with a pistol, although Shot Sage Blue Marilyn was not struck by a bullet.

Monroe was one of Hollywood's best-known stars before her death of an overdose at her home in Los Angeles on Aug 4, 1962. She was 36.

Warhol died at age 58 in 1987.